AIC Doesn't Make D1AA Playoff Cut

Most every dispassionate observer in D1AA rugby started this season expecting either Lindenwood-Belleville or AIC, or possibly both, to be at-large D1AA playoff teams, but that has not happened.

Lindenwood-Belleville self-reported that it fielded players who were not academically eligible (according to school rules, not USA Rugby rules), and as such the Lynx were not technically in good standing for five games. USA Rugby issued forfeits for those games, and thus Lindenwood-Belleville's 6-4 record is now 3-7. That record was not good enough for the playoffs.

AIC was in a different situation. Having finished an independent schedule of six games, the Yellow Jackets ended up 4-2. Along with beating NEC twice, AIC had wins over UMass and UNH and lost competitive games to Iona and Notre Dame College.

(An aside, NEC's schedule is about as difficult as any team's in the Northeast. It included Bishop's out of Quebec, Army, AIC twice, St. Bonaventure, NDC, and Kutztown. NEC is 0-7.)

The Yellow Jackets had an independent schedule after being left out of the Liberty Conference during the conference shake-up over the summer. AIC applied to be in the Rugby East but was not accepted. The Yellow Jackets then opted not to apply for membership in D1AA conferences MARC, MAC, and Chesapeake because the member teams were too far away.

"We played every D1A team in our region," AIC head coach Rob Guiry said.

Given assurances by USA Rugby Collegiate Director Rich Cortez that the Yellow Jackets would have a seat at the playoff table, AIC found no such space this weekend as a committee of the four fall conferences — Roger Mazzarella of the MAC, Dan Yarusso of the MARC, Scott Zavrel of the Chesapeake, and Marty Bradley of the SCRC, along with USA Rugby D1AA representative James Fonda (Pac West) — voted unanimously not to accept the team's playoff bid.

"I explained that AIC had to go find a schedule for themselves," Cortez said. "But the people on the committee looked at their record and the records of the teams they played and said it wasn't enough. Of the eight teams that could make the playoffs in the fall, plus AIC, the only team with a worse won-loss record than AIC is James Madison."

Cortez said he is looking into having AIC participate in a play-in match in the spring.

Guiry, for his part, is not happy.

"I think we have independents in D1AA," Guiry said. "But the independents don't have a representative on the committee. We had not only AIC but Lindenwood-Belleville and NEC who could have been considered. But independents will always be at a disadvantage because we don't have a representative on the committee."

Guiry said he acknowledges that maybe his team's schedule wasn't very strong, but he added that NEC was much better than most might assume based on their brutal schedule.

But, Guiry added, "I question what D1AA teams could find a win on NEC's schedule. We played every D1AA team within four hours of us. With the Liberty Conference moving, it left no one in D1AA in the Northeast."


The vote also smacks of keeping good with your own. The current eight-team fall playoff has a certain symmetry about it — two teams from each of the four conferences. To vote in one independent team and thus tell one conference (probably, harshly, the MARC) that only one seed would come from last conference seemed, in the end, too tough a decision to make.

Guiry posits that AIC is also a strong team, and perhaps being a contender was a factor in the decision. He said this even as the committee members implied strongly that AIC hadn't proved it was strong.

"It boggles my mind that it was a unanimous vote against us; not one person on the committee saw us as a quality team," Guiry said. "We lost by 14 against Notre Dame College, and it was a seven-point game until the last five minutes."


The upshot of this situation is that the guidelines for which teams should be in D1AA and which should be in D1A — and how teams are put into the playoffs — may have to be re-written. To have a committee in which only one of the five members doesn't have a dog in the fight struck some observers as wrong.

Guiry also said the circumstances of an independent team have to be taken into account.

"At the bottom of the application to be in the playoffs you have a space to plead your case, but it's a paragraph," Guiry said. "I thought Rich [Cortez] understood, but you can't really articulate a whole season's worth of issues and the issues in putting together an independent schedule in the Northeast."

For AIC, the Yellow Jackets will look ahead to the Liberty Bowl Series, which streams live on FloRugby on Nov. 18.

"We're very excited to take part in that," Guiry said.

In the end, concluded Guiry, "You want to take the decision out of someone's hands. We lost two games, and that put it in the hands of someone else to decide our fate."

  

Men's, Women's 7s Eagles Back In Action In Hamilton

Following a lengthy five-week layoff, the HSBC Sevens World Series resumes this weekend in Hamilton, New Zealand, with both the Men's and Women's Eagles competing.

The Seawolves' 2020 Backline Will Be Lethal

First, we looked at the Seattle Seawolves' monstrous forward pack. Now, let's have a peak at the boys who will be running the show in the back line for 2020:

Huge Blow For Scotland As Finn Russell Removed From Team

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell will miss the Six Nations opener against Ireland after a "breach of team protocol", Scottish Rugby said on Thursday.

Watch: Exeter vs Harlequins & Sale vs Saracens

The Premiership Rugby Cup has reached its semifinal stage, with Sale, Harlequins, Exeter, and Saracens the last four standing. 

Andy Farrell, Eddie Jones See Silver Lining In Saracens Saga

Ireland coach Andy Farrell said Wednesday that he believes Eddie Jones will use the Saracens' salary cap scandal to "galvanize" England in the upcoming Six Nations Championship.

Seattle Seawolves' 2020 Forward Pack Is Loaded

The best teams tend to stay on top because they constantly keep improving, maintaining the gap between themselves and the rest of the pack. 

Old Glory Puts On A Show In Front Of Sellout Crowd

The long wait finally came to a close on Saturday, as Old Glory DC played its first match of 2020, a friendly against collegiate side Navy. 

Eddie Jones Picks His 34-Man England Side For Six Nations

Eight uncapped players have been called into Eddie Jones' England side for the 2020 Six Nations. 

Sabercats Fall To Tasman, But Show Encouraging Signs

The Houston Sabercats took part in their first preseason exhibition match on Saturday night against the Tasman Mako from New Zealand, falling in a close game 29-19. 

What's Next For Saracens Following Relegation?

Reigning Premiership and European champions Saracens will play in the second tier of English rugby next season, following their relegation from the top flight for salary cap breaches.